In July 2015, 150 IB Diploma Programme students, from 45 schools and 20 different countries gathered in Barcelona, Spain, to discover how technology has transformed our world and influenced society.
The IB World Student Conference (IBWSC), entitled ‘Technology in a global society’, encouraged students to explore various forms of technology and become architects, engineers, business managers and entrepreneurs for the week.
Taking place at the La Salle Campus, part of University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, students had a unique opportunity to listen to and learn from researchers, engineers and officials from the city’s council. Not many students realized that Barcelona is home to a thriving ICT sector, and has invested huge amounts of resource to grow and promote this.
DP student Robert Whittaker, from Kent College Canterbury, in the UK, reflects on his week at IBWSC:
It was the first time I’d flown anywhere alone. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience but, by the end of the week, I realized it was worth it.
On arrival, we were allocated into small chaperone groups. In my group there were students from India, Denmark, Armenia, and various US states, including Texas, New Jersey and Minnesota. A mixture of exhaustion and nervousness meant that we were a little reserved. But after a good night’s rest, everyone was ready for our first full day.
A new society
Our first speaker was Mr Josep Miquel Piqué, CEO of the Office of Economic Growth from Barcelona City Council, who gave a keynote speech entitled ‘New Technology, New Economy, New Society’. He said that, one day, ‘everything will be connected to the cloud’, which made me think about how different our lives will be as a result. He also noted that more of us are becoming global citizens because of technology.
We were put into Global Action Teams (GAT) groups, and everyday after each keynote we would congregate and discuss the presentation. During our first GAT session, we were asked to define a ‘global citizen’.
Our definition, which we shared with everyone, was: A person who is respectful and aware of people from other walks of life, who is a law-abiding member of a wider international community, and has a set of rights and responsibilities such as upholding social justice.
In the third and final session of the day, we were introduced to our week-long ‘start-up challenge’. Throughout the week, my group worked on a product based on ‘Viuing’, a screen that allows spectators to catch all the action at F1 events.
Each evening, we went on a different city adventure, navigating our way around by the Metro. We visited Barcelona beach; the city’s famous unfinished cathedral Sagrada Familia; the well-known avenue Las Ramblas; and indulged in many of the country’s famous cuisines such as paella and tapas.
Smart cities and robotics
On Tuesday, we heard from Eduard Martin Lineros and Ramon Martin de Pozuelo who spoke about smart cities; specifically how Barcelona is leading the field in smart cities.
The GAT session that followed asked us to concentrate on a problem in a major city and how it might be solved with smart technology. We decided to solve the chronic traffic problems that fellow student Liane had experienced in Manila, Philippines.
To manage the rush hour more effectively, our idea was to plan her journeys and send suggested departure times and directions via a mobile app. We developed a business plan and although this idea was received warmly, we decided it would have been difficult to implement and uphold.
Wednesday began with a keynote speech from Alex Barco Martelo, a professor of robotics. He taught us about the use of anthropomorphic machines in therapy and how it can help with autism and cognitive rehabilitation. We also learned about Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.
We had an exciting opportunity to develop Lego robots within our GAT groups. We designed a robot that could be a companion to an elderly person – it could smile and featured a cup holder to hold cups of tea!
We designed branding for our robots during the afternoon start-up challenge session, helping us develop key business skills. Having seen much of Barcelona on the previous two nights, this evening was reserved for celebrating international culture.
Celebrating international culture
Students from each nation produced a poster about their country, which lined the walls around the campus. I took the opportunity to teach ‘Cockney rhyming slang’ and share my knowledge about the British political system. Students from Indonesia put together a very entertaining, traditional puppet show, called wayang. The vibrant and cohesive evening ended with Bollywood dancing. It was great to see everyone get involved.
Thursday saw an exciting day at CosmoCaixa – Barcelona’s stunning science museum, which houses a part of the Amazonian rain forests. We had a guided tour of an exhibit detailing what the earth might be like in 2100. While this was really informative, it was also quite alarming. It’s predicted that the sea level could rise by up to 12 metres in Barcelona, engulfing vast swathes of the city. It made me think that something needs to be done.
We also watched a really cool 3D video, projected onto the dome ceiling in the planetarium, about how satellites work and how our world would not be the same without the scientific and technological advances that space exploration has given us.
That evening ended with a lively jazz concert and we watched Back to the Future at an open air cinema.
Friends for life
Reflecting back to July, the best thing about the IBWSC was the incredible people I met. I now have new friends in Denmark, India, Tanzania, the Philippines, Singapore, Kenya, Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey and Reno to name just a few.
We’ve all kept in close contact through social media. We’re already planning our next reunion – I can’t wait to see them again.
Students came together to share and celebrate their different cultures